MCAT

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) currently assesses the medical school applicant’s understanding of basic concepts in general biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, non-calculus based physics, statistics, psychology, and sociology. The test consists of four multiple-choice sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

For the most up-to-date information about the test, please visit the official Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) website. Some highlights include:

The old MCAT will be accepted for the 2017 cycle by almost all medical schools, but if you are using the old MCAT to apply for 2017 matriculation, check the list on aamc.org: Medical school policies for accepting scores from the current and the new MCAT® exams (pdf) or individual school websites. For a school-by-school list of the oldest and latest MCAT test dates accepted for the 2017 application cycle, see the listing in the Medical School Admissions Requirements which can be purchased at aamc.org.

Retaking the MCAT

If your MCAT scores were lower than you had hoped for, the following list of questions may help you to decide whether to retake the MCAT:

Should I retake the MCAT?

  • What is your score? For those who took the MCAT before April 2015, if you achieved a 10 on each of the sub-sections, then you are well above the cut-offs for the medical schools that use them. Retaking the test to try to get an 11 or more will not necessarily add much to the strength of your application. And retaking the MCAT carries some risk. Research has shown that retest increases are more likely for those examinees initially scoring 9 or below than for those whose initial score is 10 or above. On the MCAT website, you can view data tables on other applicants who re-took the test with similar initial scores. A score of 10 on the old sections is roughly equivalent to a score of 127 on the new sections.
  • Which medical schools are you applying to? The weight given to the MCAT scores varies by medical school. Some schools use a formula in assigning value to the MCAT or have established minimum scores for admissions. Most schools count either the best or most recent set of scores but many look at all the scores. Please see the Medical School Admissions Data for Harvard applicants available in the OCS library.
  • Are you truly motivated to retake the test? How thoroughly would you prepare? Do you have enough time and energy to do the preparation and practice necessary to improve your scores? Most medical school admissions officers will expect your scores to significantly increase the second time you take the test simply because you now have familiarity with the test.
  • Do you feel you were adequately prepared for the test in terms of studying and having the appropriate coursework? (Some students take the MCAT before they take physics at Harvard; this works for some but not all students.) If you feel you put maximum effort into studying for the test the first time, retaking it may not improve your score.
  • What opportunities would you miss out on by re-taking the test? Would your time, effort, and money be better spent strengthening other aspects of your candidacy, or do you really need an improved score to be competitive? How competitive are the other aspects of your candidacy, such as grades, activities, recommendations, etc.?
  • Were you ill or very tired or distracted by conditions in the testing room? Did you realize at the last minute that you had incorrectly recorded answers on the test? These are unusual circumstances, so retaking the test may be a good idea.
  • Were you very anxious during the test, such that you "blanked" at a number of points and couldn't focus on the test? Do you tend to have difficulty with standardized tests? If so, seeking help with test anxiety from counselors at the Bureau of Study Counsel may be particularly useful. They can help you develop test taking strategies that will address anxiety so you are armed with tools before you take the test again.
  • Did you run out of time on certain sections of the MCAT? Was this in part due to not taking multiple practice tests in preparation? We highly recommend that when studying for the MCAT, you take as many of the full-length MCAT Practice Tests as you can, under conditions that are as close as possible to the real test conditions. In summary, you need to assess whether your score is fine as is, why you scored as you did, and whether you could realistically improve your score significantly if you retook the test.